Wamiqa Gabbi is having the time of her life. With back-to-back hit projects like ‘Grahan’ and ‘Jubilee’, she is here with two releases in two weeks – ‘Charlie Chopra’ and ‘Khufiya’. Interestingly both of them have been directed by Vishal Bhardwaj. She has already been garnering great reviews for playing the detective in ‘Charlie Chopra’, it will be interesting to see her in ‘Khufiya’, where she is seen in a completely different avatar.
Talking to Prateek Sur, Wamiqa Gabbi opens up about ‘Charlie Chopra, playing a female detective inspired by Agatha Christie’s books, working with Vishal Bhardwaj for the 4th time, ‘Khufiya’ and working with her screen idol, Tabu. Excerpts from the candid chat:
How does it feel to be back in Vishal Bhardwaj’s universe again?
It’s amazing. I’m so glad that actors like me aspire to work with him at least once, and I’m fortunate to be working with him for the fourth time. It has been a fantastic learning experience, and I feel very grateful. I don’t know how all of this is happening, but I’m just grateful that it is.
How did you land this role in ‘Charlie Chopra’, and can you describe your character?
My character’s name is Charlie Chopra, and she hails from Chandigarh. She’s a Punjabi. Charlie and her boyfriend have been working together, running their Honey Jam business for the past five years. However, her world is turned upside down when she suddenly learns that her fiancé is suspected of being a murderer and is in jail. She travels to Manali to save him and becomes embroiled in trying to solve the case. Charlie Chopra is one of the most enjoyable detectives I’ve had the opportunity to portray. There are not many female detectives in India, and I’m proud to be one of the first. Actually, I can’t recall any other female detective in India, so being part of ‘Charlie Chopra’ is truly special. This isn’t your typical serious drama; it’s a murder mystery filled with fun, and it’s set in a beautiful and mysterious world created by Vishal Sir’s direction and Agatha Christie’s influence. So, this is definitely something new and different for me, a character I haven’t played before.
So, could you describe the process and preparations you went through before getting into the role?
Vishal Sir asked me not to take on any other projects before the shoot of ‘Charlie Chopra’ so that I could fully prepare for it. That’s exactly what I did during the first two months of preparation. I didn’t take on any other commitments; instead, I focused solely on reading the script. Vishal Sir and I dedicated our time to working on the scenes, dialogues, and various aspects of the character. It was an enjoyable and creative process. Additionally, I had Zoom calls with several female detectives to gain insights into their experiences and perspectives. I also watched the work of some prominent female detectives in India. In preparation for ‘Charlie Chopra’s unique storytelling style, which involves breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience throughout the show, I watched films that employed a similar technique. It was an intriguing and enlightening experience.
So, you’ve appeared in smaller roles in movies, but I feel it’s due to OTT that you have got such a huge recognition. Would you agree with that?
Before OTT, I was primarily involved in regional cinema, where I often played the lead role in theatrical films. My introduction to the world of OTT and digital platforms only happened three years ago. After the pandemic, I participated in my first series, ‘Grahan,’ directed by Renjan Chandale. It was a beautiful experience, and I hope to work with him again in the future. I’ve also had smaller roles in films like ‘Jabba’ when I was in 7th grade, as well as a few more Hindi films during my school days. However, after that, I transitioned into playing lead roles in Punjabi, Tamil, Malayalam, and Telugu films. My journey with OTT truly began in 2022, and it has allowed me to portray some remarkable characters, some of which are the most memorable in my career. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have portrayed these roles, and it has indeed altered my perspective on my craft and the way I approach scripts now.
How would you look back at your journey, being somebody who’s not from the industry?
Well, I wouldn’t want to change anything about my journey. It has shaped me into the person I am today. I’m genuinely delighted to be in this phase of my life, where I’m promoting ‘Charlie Chopra’ and ‘Khufiya,’ and I have a promising lineup of films for the future. I wouldn’t want to alter anything, even with all the struggles, ups and downs, and rejections. I’m content and grateful for my journey. It may have been slow-paced, but it has been incredibly fruitful.
So, what would you say was your biggest struggle or challenge when you entered Bollywood?
Actually, I moved to Bombay almost ten years back. It’s been a struggle only and challenges only since then. I think the biggest challenge is to just let everyone know that you exist. We say that we have to give auditions and all of that, and you keep getting better. And I think the only way to go about it is to work on yourself, on your craft, be so good that they can’t reject you. It took me some time to understand that, but I’m glad that now my only job that I feel is to work on myself. And rest is just destiny. It’s all in the universe’s hands. So that’s all I do. I only work on myself. Since ten years I’ve been giving a lot of auditions, but I think even the auditions go to specific people, right? It’s not like everybody gets to audition for a show like ‘Jubilee’. Even for that, you have to struggle a lot. You have to give good auditions. That’s your casting director. They must test you for these big series as well. So I’m glad. I think as an outsider, you just need to only work on yourself. Constantly. Like, somebody was asking me, I don’t know what they were asking, but I remember I told them, I said, for me, my recent work is like an exam for my next film. If I was from a filmy background or if I had relatives in the film industry, or if I belonged to the industry, I know that I would be given second chances, third chances, fourth chances, even if I don’t do well. But as an outsider, I constantly need to work on my craft so that I get more work. I know that one bad performance (laughs). I don’t worry about bad films. That’s a decision that I need to take when I’m signing one. But my work, I feel like that I need to constantly work at. I need to be better every time. Because, again, it’s like my last film, my last project is going to be my exam for my future work. So, yeah, that is there, but that’s also challenging.
Could you tell us something about your upcoming projects? We are aware of ‘Khufiya,’ but is there anything you can share about it or your other projects?
Well, I’m thrilled that ‘Khufiya’ is also set to release just one week after ‘Charlie Chopra,’ and it’s directed by Vishal Bhardwaj as well. It’s truly amazing and overwhelming to be part of two of his projects. In ‘Charlie Chopra,’ I play the lead role, and in ‘Khufiya,’ I have the opportunity to work with Tabuji, whom I’m a big fan of. So, I’m on top of the world right now. Additionally, I have another Tamil film in the works called ‘Jimmy’ with Jaya Ram Ravi. I’m very excited about it, especially because it’s going to have a Pan-India release. Furthermore, I’m involved in a theatrical produced by Atlee Sir, where I’ll be working with Varun Dhawan. Atlee Sir has a remarkable track record of understanding the pulse of the audience, as evidenced by his recent blockbuster ‘Jawan’. Given this project, I believe it has that special something that will appeal to a wide audience, and it’s truly amazing. I’m immensely grateful that people like Atlee Sir have faith in me and that I can explore opportunities across different mediums. It means a lot to me that they trust me with their next projects.